In the Matter of: ) Docket No. 97-AFC-1 ) Application for Certification ) PROCEDURAL RULING for the High Desert Power Project ) ___________________________________)
Applicant requests the Committee direct that, to the extent possible: 1) members of each party be seated together at a single location at public events; and 2) in discussing issues, the party advancing the issue should proceed first, with subsequent dialogue occurring only between Applicant and Staff "until the issue has been fully explored." (Request, p.2).
CURE agrees that "[a]ll representatives of a party should sit together, and the party advancing an issue should be prepared to address the issue first." (CURE Response, p.2). CURE opposes Applicant's request that an Intervenor be excluded from the dialogue between Applicant and Staff at workshops "until the issue had been fully explored." (CURE Response p.3). Essentially, CURE perceives this as limiting its ability to participate in workshop discussions. (CURE Response, pp. 3-4).
Commission staff argues that it (and the Committee) "should be allowed to tailor the conduct of
public events to fit the specific circumstances of the event." (Staff Response, p.1). Staff notes
that, at public workshops:
. . . the project manager already requests that members of each party's team be seated together....the project manager always asks that each person initially identify him or herself and his or her affiliation before making a comment. (Staff Response, p.2).
Staff agrees that the party advancing an issue should speak first, followed then by other parties. Staff disagrees, however, with Applicant's request that the Applicant and Staff should "fully explore" an issue before the other parties, agencies, or interested members of the public at workshops are given an opportunity to speak. In Staff's view, this request would require procedures which "may be highly inappropriate for a workshop in which multiple persons wish to discuss the same issue or are attempting to negotiate a settlement of an issue." (Staff Response, p.2).
Traditionally, Staff workshops are conducted in a variety of formats, with the emphasis being on informality in order to better facilitate discussion among all participants. This has proven useful in allowing participants to narrow and resolve issues. This lessened degree of formality does not, however, equate with a cacophonous lack of structure. For example, Staff events are generally conducted by the project manager or designee, who implements an appropriate discussion format (e.g., party-by-party, panel, roundtable). The project manager is expected to conduct these sessions in a professional manner, including ensuring that commenting participants clearly identify themselves and focus their comments upon the topic being addressed at a given time.
Indeed, Committee review indicates that these workshops are in fact being conducted according to normal procedures, including having parties grouped together insofar as the spatial limitations of the rooms used allow. We also note that Applicant does not contend that workshops in this case have not proceeded according to these expectations. Thus, we conclude that the Staff has thusfar conducted its workshops in the normal and acceptable manner.
The Applicant's second concern revolves around when participants other than Staff and Applicant may discuss an issue. Experience has shown that it is sometimes more fruitful to conduct discussions in a "panel" or "roundtable" format so that all participants may benefit from, and contribute to, the accompanying debate. At other times, it may be preferable to proceed by allowing each party to present its position, followed by reactions from the other parties. The point is that flexibility in the conduct of the informal workshops is desirable, as long as such flexibility is accompanied by the exercise of reasoned judgment, discretion, and professionalism. We have no reason to conclude that these qualities have been absent in the present case.
The Committee understands that the parties routinely identify themselves at workshops before commenting and, to the extent possible, are seated together. These practices shall continue.
Dated: January 23, 1998
ENERGY RESOURCES CONSERVATION
AND DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION
JANANNE SHARPLESS, Commissioner
and Presiding Committee Member
ROBERT A. LAURIE, Commissioner